OPENING NIGHT PACKERS 21, BEARS 15
Bears QB Jay Cutler's miserable 1st half: You had to see it to believe it
Cutler debuts with 4 interceptions, including his final pass
In the wake of the news
September 14, 2009
GREEN BAY -- No way. This wasn't possible.
Of all the scenarios that might have crossed even the most virulently pro-Packers mind, Jay Cutler throwing three interceptions by halftime in his Bears debut was not one of them.
Nor was a fourth interception that cost his team a chance to win Sunday night.
So, no. Don't come here and try to weave that unthinkable tale of woeful quarterbacking. Since Cutler came to town, it was supposed to be on the banned-book list.
But it came to life Sunday night. Cutler was dreadful in the Bears' 21-15 loss. That last interception, with about a minute left in the game, sealed his team's fate. He was left to knock Packers cornerback Al Harris out of bounds and listen to the taunts of jubilant fans at Lambeau Field.
You can't put a ceiling on the disbelief involved here. It wasn't just Cutler's 43.2 passer rating. It was that he looked like so many of the quarterbacks who have stumbled through Chicago.
Pick a word: Unimaginable, bizarre, awful -- however low you want to go. Rex Grossman-like?
"It's still a learning process," Cutler said. "We haven't been together that long in game situations. That's no excuse for what happened out there."
At the rate he was going in the first half, it was a wonder Bears coach Lovie Smith didn't throw his red flag and challenge the trade that brought the quarterback to town.
The scouting report on Cutler always has been that the rewards outweigh the risks on the field. He'll brashly, rashly throw into coverage and break a coach's heart once in a while, but he'll make more plays than not.
On Sunday night, Cutler's worst attributes crept into the light. Time and again, he tried to make plays only he saw. He threw across his body. He threw off the wrong foot. He screamed at a world that would do him so wrong.
Jay Cutler, hear him roar.
How bad was it? He could have been picked off twice before his first interception. On his second interception, a short pass meant for Matt Forte landed in the hands of Packers defensive end Johnny Jolly. Bad.
Packers cornerback Tramon Williams returned the third interception 67 yards, which eventually turned into a touchdown. Worse.
On that interception, Smith challenged a fumble at the end of the return, and by the time the referee was done looking at the replay, the Packers had gained two yards. That's how it went in the first half.
Stop me if you've heard of this kind of categorizing before, but the best way to put it is that there's a Good Jay and a Bad Jay. Good Jay threw such a sweet touchdown pass to Devin Hester in the third quarter that it could have made a grown Bears fan cry. That 36-yard connection helped cut the Packers' lead to 10-9.
Bad Jay loitered and lurked.
The defense that so many of us had dismissed going into the game played well most of Sunday. After weeks of intrigue about his back, Charles Tillman ended his Medical Mystery Tour and started at cornerback. Brian Urlacher was knocked out of the game with a dislocated right wrist. And still the Bears hung on ... until Rodgers hit Greg Jennings for a 50-yard touchdown pass with 1:11 to go.
Pick No. 4 arrived soon after.
What became clear Sunday was that the Bears face a delicate balancing act: How do they get Cutler to be smarter with the football without taking away the playmaking ability that makes him so dangerous? The early outlook: Good luck with that.
The Bears have given him the keys to the car, and it's hard to turn around and tell him to drive safely. With the puppy love they've shown him, it might be hard to tell him to do anything. He could turn out to be their version of Carlos Zambrano. They're going to have to live with a game like Sunday's. The payoff is supposed to be huge numbers and big victories. We'll see.
Remember what everyone, including Cutler, said during the preseason: Just wait until they put together a real game plan. They would be much more dangerous when they could pick apart an opponent's defense with a good attack.
In essence, the Packers dared him to beat them by throwing to his wide receivers. That rookie Johnny Knox was the intended receiver on Cutler's fourth interception is all anyone needs to know.